Building a New Tech Booth

Even before I visited Coast Hills, I knew the tech booth location was a problem. Situated in the balcony, it is in a completely different acoustic space than the majority of the seating. Moreover, it's only accessible by walking out of the auditorium, through the lobby, up two flights of stairs, back through the upper lobby and across a third of the seats in the balcony. It takes almost a full minute to go from FOH to the stage. 

At last, my dream of moving it to the floor will happen this summer. We're going to pull out about 60 chairs and build us a new booth in the same place where people sit. What a concept!

Having spent the last 25 years in various tech booths, I've taken a lot of notes. Whenever I visit a church, I always look to see how their booth is laid out and file away any good ideas I see. The booth we'll build this summer is a culmination of all those ideas.

General Layout

The booth will be nearly square at roughly 22' x 22'. Our plan is to put audio, lighting, ProPresenter and a camera position in the booth.  Video will remain upstairs, at least for now. While I could fit FOH, lighting and Pro across the front, we've decided to put Pro behind lighting. We have the depth and it will be a lot more functional. FOH will be in the front left corner, which will put the mix position just out in front of the front edge of the balcony. It will also be a good ways beyond the back wall, which should minimize any low-end buildup issues.

Lighting will be on the front right corner, and for the first time ever, the lighting guys will be able to see the lights from the audience perspective. In between will be our control station; real time audio monitoring, Wireless Workbench, audio playback, and the M-48 controls. 

Solid Desks

One of my biggest frustrations with our current booth is that we have tens of thousands of dollars worth of gear sitting on $20 tables from Costco. No more! The new desks will be made from a solid 4x4 frame, with all the joints being half-laps. The tops will be two layers of 3/4” plywood glued and screwed together. 

Both audio and lighting will be on wheels so we can pull them back to get behind the desks when needed. Through the tops, we’ll put a continuous cable slot along the front edge. That slot will sit atop a piece of slotted cable duct to keep everything tidy. Any cables that come out of the duct will be gathered up in TechFlex in lengths long enough to pull the desks out. 

We will have two 14-space racks on wheels in the front. These will hold all the rack gear we need (with about 6 spaces free of future expansion). Again, all cable will be service-looped in TechFlex.

Lots ’o Pipe

One of the biggest weaknesses of most booths is the lack of conduit--both internally and to and from. We aim to fix that with this one. We sat down a few months ago and added up all the cables we can think of that need to go down to the new booth from the old booth. We did conduit fill calculations and basically doubled the number needed then added two more. We will end up with eight 1 1/2” conduits running from the old booth to the new one. These conduits will connect two large pull boxes, one up and one down. 

Once we get downstairs, we will be placing four 12”x12” boxes in the booth; three across the front and one next to ProPresenter. We will run six 1” conduits through all four boxes. Each of the front boxes will get an additional 1” home run. 

Out of each 12-by, we’re going to place an additional two 4” square boxes just above desk height. Those will be fitted with Middle Atlantic box adapters that give us six D-sized knockouts. The 12-bys will be covered in custom plates with 36 D-sized knockouts. 

We calculated we’ll be less than 1/2 full on any of the plates when we open, so we have a lot of room for growth.

Tie Lines Galore

While we’ll have plenty of room for growth, we plan on starting with a good number of tie lines between each station, and with video up in the upstairs booth. 

I want to have easy ability to run audio and video to any location without pulling new wire. Of course, if we find ourselves using a tie line regularly, we'll pull in the cable we need and dedicate the circuit. 

More Power

Because you can never have too much power, I'm having the electricians pull six 20-amp circuits from our isolation transformer. Those circuits will be distributed throughout the booth for easy access. 

I have about 40 hours into designing this booth, but really it's a lot more like 20 years. I'm really excited about it and can't wait to see it come together. We start building as soon as I get back from Echo, so I'll be posting pictures of our progress as we go. But I thought you'd enjoy a sneak peak as to what's coming. Stay tuned!

 

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